After a sloppy start, Jazz Nation let out a collective sigh as the Sacramento Kings went up 0-7 a minute and a half into the game. We all braced ourselves for a game without Donovan Mitchell against a team that took Utah to the woodshed in their previous meeting. A slow start was the very last thing this team needed. Then, after a Jae Crowder layup and a missed Bogdanovic fadeaway jumper, the Spanish Samurai took control of this game. With 16 points, Ricky Rubio scored just over half of the team’s 30 first-quarter points. He ended the game with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on 68.8% from the field.
The key to this game was teamwork. Derrick Favors sacrificed for the good of the team and came off the bench with 11 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes, while Jae Crowder provided some spacing to Rudy Gobert, who had an all-star game if we’ve ever seen one. Rudy, an underrated passer, tallied up 5 assists to go with his 18 points and 15 rebounds. Joe Ingles also moved the ball well, with 6 assists. The team as a whole dished an impressive 30 assists.
Raul Neto and Thabo Sefolosha finally looked like themselves out there on the floor. Neto even had some key plays in the third and fourth quarters that helped keep the Kings at bay. Royce O’Neale was another player that looked like he had made a return-to-form, playing some lock-down defense making it difficult for the Kings to get anything going.
Momentum was on the Jazz’s side tonight. Once they gained control of the game, they never truly gave it up. This had the feel of a “veteran win”, where the experience of our players allowed us to simply take a win, even though we were missing Donovan Mitchell due to a rib contusion. That is not to downplay the great individual performances of so many of our players.
What we can take away from this game is how important spacing is for the Jazz offense. Although we only shot 33.3% from behind the arc this game, our spacing was much improved, and allowed room for our offense to work. Sacramento was unable to muddy the paint for driving guards and wings while we had shooting threats covering the floor. The Jazz offense worked the way it was supposed to, and the Jazz defense denied the other team from making any significant runs.
This game is a great sign for future success of the team. Wins like this will be key to maintaining a respectable record through the December gauntlet coming up. Utah cannot bank on another historic run to finish off the season, even if the schedule does lighten up after the new year. If the Jazz can continue to come together as a team, making sacrifices where necessary and stepping up when needed, we saw tonight that the Jazz are still one of the better teams in the West. While I have given my fair share of criticism to the Jazz, tonight gave me hope that Utah may still be a contender to beat Golden State come April. The war will be long and difficult. Jazz players will have nights where they are as fatigued as they have ever been, but the gold at the end of the yellow-brick road is up for the taking. This Jazz squad must constantly remember their slogan:
“The strength of the team is the team.”